A Steal At Shopper’s Paradise: Freeport, Maine (New England)
12 Oct 2012 - “Shit, Peter, my bag’s split!” With a four-inch split at the side, next to the zipper, my hand carry didn't have a hope in Hades of safely containing my laptop, maps, cameras, electronic cords and books for the rest of my journey. But we weren’t talking about just a bag here. This black, generic “Made in China” hand carry has been my constant travel companion for nigh on ten years. Like the death of a best friend, I was inconsolable.
“It’s been good to you, Vic.”, said Peter by way of a eulogy. “We’ll need to find you something else as it’s not going to hold up over the next few days.”
Catching up with Terri, our 1802 House B&B innkeeper at breakfast time, we told her about my dilemma. “On your way to Damariscotta, there are retail outlets in Freeport. You’ll find anything you want there.”, she advised.
Leaving our B&B at 11 am, the drive up the I-95 from Kennebunkport to Maine was an easy one-hour cruise. The temperature had dropped considerably, the air was crisper, and the foliage on the trees on both sides of the highway were a visual feast of rusts, golds and reds. Coming from Sydney, Australia where the seasons are not so marked, we “Oohed” and “Aahed” with the spontaneity of children.
Finally, our GPS chirped just as we spotted Reebok and Banana Republic, “You have reached your destination.”
Main Street in Freeport (Maine) is a world-renowned shoppers paradise with the famous L.L. Bean Retail Store at the center of a bustling, historic village. Featuring many other upscale outlets such as Ralph Lauren, Gap, Banana Republic and Tommy Hilfiger, we hoped that we would find a Samsonite outlet too.
“Sorry, the Samsonite store has closed down.” said Carol, the sales lady from Hartmann. A slim and smartly dressed lady in her 60's with floral jacket and beige trousers, she had the inertia of someone who hadn't seen a customer for a while.
“But we’ve come especially for the Samsonite store!”, Peter cried in distress. “My wife’s hand carry has split and she desperately needs to find herself another one.”
“We happen to be owned by Samsonite,” Carol explained, becoming slightly more animated. “and we do have a lovely range of 20” hand carry’s that your wife can look at.”
“I’m the wife” I interjected. As a person of small stature, I find myself exasperated by the fact that people still speak over me like I'm a child that does not have a mind of her own. “I do have a good idea of what I want.”, politely but firmly dismissing the hideous chocolate and tweed ranges that Carol steered us to.
“We also have these styles in black if you prefer.” Now she was talking.
Hmmm, I didn't mind it in the black. "How much is this?”
“Our outlet price is $260, reduced from $360.”
“That’s too much money.” I muttered, somewhat disillusioned.What was I going to do if we couldn't find a bag here? We weren't going to spend any more time hunting down retail outlets in New England. On the other hand, my bag wouldn't stay together until New York.
“I’m afraid all our hand carry’s are pretty much along that price range. Unless of course you find something in the clearance corner.”, Carol said as an after thought.
“Over here.”, Carol said, moving in the general direction. “What about this one? It’s a Vera Wang.”
"There's be no way I could afford a Vera Wang, but I’ll have a look anyway.", I thought to myself. I couldn’t help noticing its black streamlined silhouette, longer and more graceful where my old one was clumsy. Refinement combined with strength. And at 20”, it was just the right size too. I picked it up. Hmm, very light. Unzipping it, I checked the interior out. Lovely touch of a feminine-colored lilac lining, in sharp contrast to the austere black exterior. Lots of room too. I liked it. A Lot.
“So how much is this bag?”, I asked.
Carol dug her hand in an interior pocket of the bag and pulled out a ticket. “Well, this one is our last one and it’s being cleared at $86.”
What? A Vera Wang hand carry for $85? Something didn’t compute. Taking the ticket from Carol, I flicked it over to the other side to see what this bag had sold for in the department stores and nearly choked.
“Is this amount correct? This bag was selling for $500 in department stores?”, I asked incredulously.
“Yes, Ma’am. It is a Vera Wang.”, Carol said.
“So what’s wrong with it? What if we buy it and the zip is faulty or the handle breaks off.”, Peter said, ever the realist.
“Whatever is wrong with the bag is purely cosmetic. We would never sell anything here if the function of the bag was faulty. If you’re happy with the way the bag looks, then you’ve got yourself a very good deal here.”, Carol explained.
Mission accomplished. With my sexy Vera Wang hand carry in tow, Peter and I headed for Gap, Tommy Hilfiger and Polo. After all, we had a new bag to fill and I was ready to begin the next stage of my travel adventures in style.